Best Onsen Destinations In Japan (10 Top Locations)

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Japan is one of the world’s best hot spring destinations, with over 27,000 hot springs puncturing its islands.

Soaking in a hot spring bath or onsen is a national pastime and a must-try for visitors seeking to experience Japan’s unique culture.

Best Onsen Destinations In Japan
Best Onsen destinations in Japan

So if you’re ready for a skinny dip in a Japanese hot spring.

Here are 10 of the best onsen destinations in Japan. 

Japan’s 10 Best Onsen Destinations

These are the 10 best locations in Japan for a decent soak. Immerse yourself in the hot spring baths of Japan and enjoy the restorative benefits of the volcanic waters that are all over this island. 

10. Beppu Onsen, Oita

If the puffs of steam emanating from spots around the city does not scare you, you’re ready for a soak in the hot waters of Beppu, known affectionately as jigoku (burning hell).

This onsen resort consists of eight onsen areas that are heated by underground volcanic activity from Mt. Tsurumi and Mt. Garan producing hot water that is rich in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals.

Even the sands on the beach are superheated and available for therapeutic treatments.

Have a look at some great Beppu ryokans with onsen for a good soak in my article: 5 Best Hotels in Beppu.

9. Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma

The renowned Kusatsu onsen resort boasts health-giving hot springs that are said to cure every sickness but loves sickness!

Journey into the mountains of Gunma, 1200 meters above sea level to enjoy the Sainokawara Rotemburo, a large outdoor hot spring. 

BONUS: I just have to include the remarkable Yumomi (湯もみ) ladies who cool piping hot onsen water with special paddles and an ancient choreographed technique. 

8. Nozawa Onsen, Nagano

If you’re in Nozawa, you’re either going to be skiing or soaking.

This town is known for its ‘soto-yu’, public hot spring baths that are free to locals and visitors.

However, many of these hot springs are piping hot with danger warnings, so only veterans should venture there. Kumanotearaiyu is easier for beginners. 

7. Hakone Onsen, Kanagawa

Hakone is the destination for onsen lovers who don’t take life too seriously.

Onsens are everywhere in just about every format possible. Think theme parks, luxury ryokan, and open-air public rotenburo (large outdoor baths).

Yunessun spa resort is famous for its quirky coffee and wine onsen, and mixed-sex baths that you can enter with a swimsuit.

6. Atami, Shizuoka

The coastal resort of Atami is well-known for its onsen as well as its beaches.

These legendary hot springs, favored by shoguns, have a high salt content which can help to alleviate a range of skin conditions.

Make sure you also try some of the region’s onsen cooking. Onsen manju, steamed red bean cakes cooked in onsen water, are a specialty of an onsen. 

5. Yumoto Onsen, Nikko

The strong smell of sulfur will hit you when you enter the Yumoto Onsen region, but that’s the smell of all the potent minerals that are going to work wonders on your skin!

The onsen resort is part of Nikko National Park in a beautiful spot by Lake Yunoko which is perfect for hiking.

Don’t be frightened of the steam that bursts out of vents, Ryokan and bathhouses will ensure the water runs at a safe temperature. 

4. Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen is an idyllic Hyogo Prefecture escape where you can experience the traditional hot spring hospitality of Japan.

The riverside setting, complete with willow trees complements the rustic ryokan and bathhouses of this hot spring. Wear your best yukata to stroll the charming arcades.

3. Kissho Caren, Izu

Travelers looking for a luxury resort experience will appreciate the onsen waters of the Izu Peninsula which are rich in salts and minerals.

One of the most opulent onsens in Izu is Kissho Caren, a  luxury hotel near Izu-Hokkawa Station. It has an amazing outdoor infinity onsen with impressive views across Sagami Bay.

2. Niwa no Yu, Tokyo

This Tokyo onsen is not 100% authentic but gives bathers a hot spring experience in the capital.

The spa waters are procured from drilling, rather than a natural spring. In addition, there are beautiful gardens to enjoy.

1. Dogo Onsen

Studio Ghibli fans will instantly recognize this ancient onsen from Spirited Away.

This 3,000-year-old onsen resort is one of Japan’s most renowned and a favorite of the Imperial family.

This eastern Matsuyama, in Ehime Prefecture and features in many of Japan’s artistic and cultural works. 

Japan’s Best Onsen Destinations FAQ

Which city in Japan has the best hot springs?

Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture is considered by many to be Japan’s best onsen resort, with at least 13 public baths to enjoy for free.

The townspeople maintain the public onsen facilities, which have been fed by renowned sulfur, aluminum sulfate, and chloride-rich acidic springs with antibacterial properties.

There is a Japanese saying about Kusatu: Kusatsu yoi toko, ichido wa o-ide, which means “Come to Kusatsu once in your life since it’s such a wonderful place.”

What are the three most famous onsen?

Japan has three revered onsen, which are considered the very best onsen in Japan.

They were described in the writings of Hayashi Razan, an Edo Period philosopher, and are a must-visit destination for the discerning bather.

They are:
Gero Onsen, fantastic hot springs with deep moisturizing properties situated between Nagoya and Takayama
Arima Onsen, a renowned Hyogo hot-spring resort located just outside Kobe.
– Kusatsu Onsen, the famed Gunma prefecture onsen described above.

Which Japanese onsen is best for healing?

Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido is known for its famous healing onsen. The resort boasts nine different types of hot spring water, each with its own healing properties.

You can enjoy the healing properties of milky sulfur-rich or revive your health with some of the other salt and metal-rich pools. Skin conditions like eczema, rheumatic disorders, and gynecological problems are known to be eased by bathing in these waters. 

What temperature is onsen water?

The water temperature in an onsen is usually between 100.4 and 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit (38 and 42 degrees Celsius).

Do you wear clothes in an onsen?

No. Onsen users must be naked and clean. This is because outside clothing is considered to introduce impurities into the onsen environment and water. Attempting to wear or clothing or cover yourself in any way is considered poor etiquette. 

Do you wear a swimsuit in onsen Japan?

No, like clothes, swimsuits are considered inappropriate for an onsen because you have to be naked to use the hot spring bath. A swimsuit would interfere with thoroughly cleaning your body before entering the onsen.

Are onsen mixed gender?

Most onsen are single-sex, as men and women can feel more comfortable bathing separately. However, there may be as many as 50 mixed-sex onsen in Japan.

Why are tattoos not allowed in onsen?

In Japan, tattoos are considered socially unacceptable. Especially in onsen.

They are often associated with the Western and Yakuza gangs and have become completely forbidden in public spaces like beaches, swimming pools, and onsen. If you have a tattoo, you’ll likely need to cover it with a waterproof plaster. 

Who should avoid onsen?

Onsen waters are hot and mineral-rich. A prolonged soak in an onsen may cause problems for people with cardiovascular conditions like congestive heart failure, renal disease, and some skin complaints.

Pregnant women and young children should also exercise caution when using onsen. If you are unsure about the safety of using an onsen, seek advice and guidance from your doctor. 

Rounding Up

Japanese onsen are a popular destination for the health conscious. The volcanic minerals are amazingly restorative, and if you can tolerate the heat, you will experience deep relaxation.

Of course, if modesty is an issue opt for a private onsen in a ryokan, rather than communal bathing!

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